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she liked it, she wasn't abusive. she felt it was fine but she didn't see the queen. [laughter] she made a pact. she was held to her end of it any way. >> [inaudible] >> no, no. but she was told about it. >> i think one of the things that people talk about being criticized a bit about not liking and compassion as about one of the things that the continuing gravitation between her and the royal family and you can touch as a windsor i think that has a lot of times said they should be invited to the family greetings but they were always excluded. i think there was a sort of comment about that time. >> yeah. it was a very dramatic moment when henry the eighth advocated, and her family became the king.
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he hadn't been prepared for it, and he went to his mother and said i was trained as a naval officer. he didn't learn to be an admirable king and they did -- they were tough on them. i think one of the difficulties was the possibility that the duke and duchess of windsor could have lived in england that would set up a parallel course i think it would have been extremely difficult to have an x and a current king living in the same place that for that reason they wanted them to live someplace else during the war they lived in the bahamas and afterwards. but i was struck the queen did reach out to him. there was a representative boesh the had to come for my surgery and they went and visited him in
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the hospital and there was a commemoration for his mother and he was included in net. and when she was making a visit to paris in 1972 and he had already been diagnosed with cancer. the queen who knew she didn't have long to live and she went and visited him and was a very tender visit that they had together, and his doctor said she had tears in her eyes and only weeks later he died and she was kind to the duchess of windsor who was heavily sedated and kind of out of it during that period of time, but clarissa said the hand of the duchess of windsor's orman was treating her with me nanny
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tenderness. one of her qualities is a tolerance in that capacity for forgiveness. >> thanking. >> the passer-by? i deeply want to inquire could you elaborate just a little on the blow up over the first lady? >> i have that in the book come an absolute eyewitness account from the videographer that is actually recording beholding and told me what happened. and it was not as big of a deal as it was made out to be. as you can imagine there's quite a disparity in height between the queen and michelle obama come and they were standing at
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the reception for all of the g20 leaders and they were first of all they were sort of comparing their shoes, then they turned to the ladies that were waiting standing right over there and they started to sort of demonstrate how tall she was and how short she was and they quite naturally as they were showing and demonstrating this they put their arms around each other and is long been said you shouldn't touch the queen although many people have over the years and she's become much more relaxed about. they helped and wrote, shoulder but nobody took offense except the british tabloid press who decided to make a big deal out of it. but i talk to people that buckingham palace and the said everybody was in a good mood that day, and it was kind of in the spirit of how everybody felt. so nobody took offense.
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anything else? okay. thank you very much for coming. [applause] >> for more information visit the authors web site, sallybedellsmith.com. up next on book tv david westin recounts his 13 year tenure at abc news from 1997 to 2010. he recalls his arrival at the network near the end of the 1990's when network news dominance was being challenged by the growth of cable news and remembers the news stories that marked his career at abc. this is just over an hour.
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>> good evening and welcome to tonight's meeting of the commonwealth club of california. the place where you are in the know. this week in northern california and your moderator this evening. thank us on the internet on commonwealthclub.org and now it is my pleasure to introduce the speaker david westin former president of abc news and author of the new book exit interview. the president ceo of news right and ambitious venture to license our original use content and collect royalties from our creditors. they've launched more than almost six months ago and hopefully he will tell us a bit about it before the meeting is over. he's president of abc news for over a decade from 1997.
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he received the 11 peabody 13 dupont's, and more than 40 news and documentary emmys. plus more than 40 awards. innovation is the hallmark of the administration he created and built an array of special units for all abc news outlets led by brian rauf's hard-hitting investigative you net. in 2007 he announced the largest single the expansion of the foreign news coverage in the history of abc news by sending 70 new digital recorders to the hot spots around the world. abc also aired john miller's interview with osama bin laden the last of the western journalists from afghanistan as well as barbara walters interview with monica lewinski,
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the highest rated program in history. before joining abc mr. westin was at pickering in washington, d.c. where he was also the clerk to the supreme court justice lewis powell jr.. and yes, before i forget, he was president of abc network groups for three years before heading to the division. so please, give a warm welcome to david westin. [applause] >> thank you very much for the introduction. you can always tell a professional, can't you? that tony and that voice. i'm delighted to be here with you in san francisco tonight. i've heard about the commonwealth club for years and a good friend of mine was just here recently with merkel author for the president's club and she told me with a great experience a plus to revive the looking forward to being here with you tonight. i thought i would try to explain
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a little bit about why i wrote this book. i had -- i was fortunate in having a rather fortunate experience. i started in journalism as the president of abc news. i hadn't been in journalism before, and that meant i had a very learning curve and had to learn frankly looking back i had more to learn than i realized when i started out but it also gave me i think the sort of fresh perspective coming from the outside and to the will to learn a great deal from some of these journalists i think of their generation and i wanted to share that experience with others that haven't had the opportunity to be behind the scenes in the newsroom particularly when there are big breaking news stories coming and it wasn't difficult to find some big stories to talk about for the death of princess diana which happened very early in my tenure to the impeachment of president clinton and the senate
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in the tashi in 2011. 9/11 of course and the war that followed. so a number of major news event that we were called upon to cover during my tenure, and i got to see and work with the journalists as we struggled to do our best to do right by the american people where we cover those. let me start actually with the death of princess diana. as i said it happened early in my tenure. if you recall with labor day of 1997i had been there for four and a half months and peter jennings was of course one of the people that i worked with. i got to know peter very well when we became close professionally over the course of my tenure but back in the fall of 97, he was a great journalist and was very skeptical of everything including me. he wasn't at all sure why i was running abc news as not being a journalist and he's very shy about it and looking he was perfect we justified.
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we worked on a number of major projects during our time together and agreed on almost everything and when we didn't agree peter was right the first time we clashed was over the death of princess diana, and it was not comfortable. so, more people were a way that fecund and i find myself in the newsroom largely alone without people like peter to talk to. one of the decisions i believe we're the next night as we recall we were going to air the special on sunday. peter called in about 11:20 at night when he caught up with the coverage. and i took the call actually on the newsroom floor just on camera from a weekend anchor was reporting about the death of princess diana and peter could be very firm and very disciplined.
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he said anderson and princess diana died and you were considering a prime time special. that's right. we are working on it. he said that's your right but i feel i owe it to you if you do a prime time special no one will ever take you seriously as the president of abc news. so here i am for and a half months in my tenure and i have peter jennings a bonafide of legend, somebody i had enormous respect for telling me i was blowing my first big news called and by a good margin, didn't have a lot of journalism to fall back on at that point. so i fell back on my family. and i said to him i understand she wasn't the head of the state but i had a sister back in michigan. she has read every detail since the moment she got engaged and i think there are other people will feel that way. i said it's your right. i will have nothing to do with that and that was the end of the
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conversation. so here i am thinking what have i done? i am wrecking abc news. peter called the next morning i got a call at home at 9:30 in the morning and said david ayaan in the car on the way in and i have read all of the coverage. you were right, i was wrong. and so i'd like to be special and i said peter, you are a principal anchor of course, but on the dewitt to you to tell you i've already signed up with diane sawyer and barbara walters to anchor the special. so, if you want to do the special, you will have to do it with a two of them as anchors. to his great credit he said that is fine with me. what happened is we had a two-hour special but might that sunday night anchored by peter jennings and diane sawyer and barbara walters. in that particular instance, which is it was unusual, peter actually was wrong and i was right but that is not the point. that is not what i took away from this. what i took away from this was a more important point. peter was saying you have to keep in mind the line between
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entertainment and news and think about why you are reporting the story. are you reported it because it is of historical significance or because people just want to know about it? you have to keep that in mind. there is nothing wrong with reporting because people care about them. but you should always be thinking that exactly why you were doing it. that by the way his moved substantially. i give princess diana died today there wouldn't be anything in the newsroom about the prime time special and probably it was right for the line to move, but i did learn and i took away was the importance that there would be aligning and people will always be wrestling with that. there is no clear answer. it's not easy and that is the point that peter was making. the most important story that i worked on during my time was of course 9/11. 9/11 as you recall happened on a tuesday morning. i was in my office and i tended to get in in time to watch good morning america at 7:00 in the morning. and i sort of kept an eye -- i had believe it or not my
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anemometers and believe me, that will give you a.d.d. watching it otherwise watching on television screens all day long but i saw out of the corner of my eye it was one of the cable news outlets, cnn, smoke coming out of one of the towers because we were in a commercial break. we were actually on a commercial. dalian and charlie were anchoring in the new studio, and then fairly quickly became that of the commercial and we went to what we called the special report the network and the start of reporting there would be an incident and the plane had crashed and not long afterwards of course we remember we saw the second plane come across the screen and we can fairly quickly to the conclusion and al qaeda, and as was mentioned in 97 my
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first year we aired that interview john miller was some people thought he was a showboat flesh looking for attention, and we did of course air it. so, we looked fairly quickly at the conclusion that is less likely terrorism and quite possibly al qaeda. obviously a horrendous story for all of us. was terrific and tragic and wrenching. i did learn various things from our coverage of 9/11 which was not only that day that we were off the air about 100 hours straight and lead principally with die iain and charlie as well as in the evenings and elizabeth overnight. ..
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>> he struck up some sort aacquaintance with a young woman talking her into letting him use her computer. he was trying to report in what he was seeing and hearing. it took us a half hour to
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realize it was george. we also experienced fairly early on some of the pressures from the white house because we department know what was going on. we felt under attack and vulnerable, and the white house took a fairly aggressive stance early on with the reporting objecting to peter jennings that day, and peter, among the coverage, i thought entirely appropriately, was the fact we have not seen the president. he gave a brief set of remarks from florida, was headed back to washington, and went on for security reasons. peter said the security detail doesn't feel comfortable with it, but the white house was none too happy. i talked with them on the telephone thought we were disloyal to question where the president was at that time. another issue that came up in 9/11 -- actually, it came up the saturday afterwards. we were on the air for about 100
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hours strait. at the end, we did a special for children. peter did several of the specials on important weighty topics explaning things to children and take questions. we decided to do one on 9/11. we gathered a group of children with experts together in a studio, and took their questions to explain things. in the course of that special, one of our experts, kyle pruitt, a child developmental expert, made a telling point for me, which was children don't process information the way the rest of us do. when children saw the video of the towers coming down, they thought it was happening again, it was a new building, a different event. by that time, this video was shown hundreds of times across the cable networks and everything else so on the car on the way home, actually, i called into our head of standards, and said, we have a problem with this. i think we're really di
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sensitizing people and may be affecting children. we adopted a policy then we would not show the moving have had of the planes going in or the towers coming down on abc news again. from that day on, if we did things on the anniversary of 9/11, it was still photos only for the concern of how children absorb this. one of the great perks of the job, and it was a great job, don't misunderstand me, it was a great job, but i got to fly around the world and talk to anybody i wanted. on the eve of the iraq war, i went to the middle east, had extraordinary experience of sitting with sharon in his residence, and then going to ramallah visiting, and he was hulled up in the bunker, a sort of largely damaged building, high-rise building, six stories high or so, with burned out
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hulks of cars outside it. we went in, and he help the forth. it was a great experience. i visited latin america. visited with the president of colombia and calderón of mexico and chavez, an intense gentleman, who is now ill as you know, but i visited with him under a huge portrait whom he identifies with to a remarkable degree is fair to say. i got to travel with barbara walters to cuba for her second interview with fidel castro, and that was a great experience in part because i really was able to participate in not only seeing the process that a terrific interviewer like barbara goes through in doing an interview, gathers hundreds upon hundreds of questions, widdles them down. we went over questions the entire time so she thought about
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which to ask, whatnot to ask, what to combine, what order to put them in. there's a lot of thought and care going into a great interview that i think people otherwise might not appreciate, and that's what makes it look natural when she sits down because she's done her homework thoroughly. we did the work on the questions, proud of them, and then the way it works, i'm told, with castro is that you go down and you wait because he doesn't schedule a time to see you. you have to wait. they let you know when it's the right time too see him. we waited two or three days. officials had a drink with barbara and me, standing around, and in the middle of the senior most official says we want to see your questions, please. barbara and i looked at each other appalled because your journalists don't give interviewees questions in advance. i was concerned, actually, that castro might cancel the interview. barbara was confident.
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it went ahead late one night, but in the course of it, we learned there was another journalist from another network scheduled to fly in a couple of days later, and we were both concerned, barbara and i, if the other journalist got the interview, they'd air that first and take away from what barbara had done. i had to meet with the foreign minister to work things out. he makes perfect sense, that's right. you should have the exclusive on this. you have to talk to the president. that's above my pay grade. i can't make that decision. i was basically assignedded to meet with fidel castro to explain why u.s. television was important to have an exclusive. we went around a school the next day. barbara, castro, and i was in tow to talk to students about their experience, and i said at one point, you know, i need to speak with you, mr. president, we have something to talk about. he said, okay, fine, we'll get to it.
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we went off to a side room finally, and i said this has been a terrific experience, it's a good interview. you have a lot of things to say that people want to hear, but in order nor this to have the effect you want it to have, it's important that it be an exclusive interview, and i apologize for raising this, but that's the facts of life. he listened to me and to my delight, i don't know surprise, but delight. he said, that's fine, okay. it's exclusive. we held the exclusive interview which was a great experience. dianne sawyer was a true privilege to work closely with over the years. she has a lot of remarkell trades, versatility that's unprecedented handling every sort of story. she's very smart. she writes beautifully, but i think one of the things i respect most is fearlessness. that expresses itself on "good morning america" which she did at my request, and there was
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risk in her for that than the upside. she said i'll do it for three months on one condition and that's if you pull me out if it's going badly. of course, i'll protect you. she was there for 11 years doing a great job. her fearlessness leads her to stories others are not covers. like the underclass in america in places like cam den, new jersey, appalachia, spent a year reporting on indian reservations. sometimes the great journalists show their greatness in the stories no one else is covers. it's not the obvious story, but the one that is not being paid attention to that should be. now, we also had a fair amount of fun, and one of the things that was most fun was the millennium. the millennium, i don't know if you recall or not, but abc news had on a program for 24 hours, a
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little more than 24s, but we essentially went around the world, time zone by time zone as the clock ticked to 12:01, and when i first took that idea to peter, peter jennings just loved it right from the outset, embraced it, and said, but i want to anchor it. i said, for 24 hours? he said, absolutely, david, i want to do this. this is made for me. it was in many respects because he was such a man of the world. he knew so much about the world. i'll tell you about three days, i think, before the broadcast, before we went into rehearsals we did, i went down to visit peter on weekend in his office, and he was sitting there by himself in the office with a stack of three by five index cards that must have been 15 inches high, and i said, peter, what are you doing? as best i could figure, he was trying to ensure he knew every fact about the world for 2,000 years one after the other. [laughter] i said, peter, you know,
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whatever happens with this because it was a risk and didn't know if anyone would pay attention, whatever happens, no one comes away from the experience having any doubt that you know a lot, that you know the world. you can relax about that. that's not a problem. -a wonderful experience, and i treasure it. now, actually, one of the biggest stories that we had during my time at abc news was not one we covered. it was about us, and by "us," it was the news media overall. there was an enormous change in what the news media was in the country. when i went to abc news in 1997, fox news and msnbc were two months old. they essentially didn't exist. abc news didn't have a website. we created abcnews.com my first year there, much less than search for news and social media
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and twitter and all the rest of it. what is described as news has expanded dramatically. it is an enormously bigger tent. the news media now can cover a wide variety of things. it can cover everything from time honored journalism, the way people like peter jennings and barbara batters and diane sawyer do it and did it to blogs and gossip and it's under an umbrella of news media. a fundamental question is does that change the nature of journalism? does it really change the commitment such as peter had towards making sure you are covering something that's important? does it change the drive to make sure you are getting the facts right? that you're checking and rechecking? does it change the basic division between opinion on the one hand and fact-based journalism on the other? as i look around today, i see
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examples of both. certainly, we can find things that are examples of extreme opinion and of bloggers and of rumor and even inknew -- inuendo and things. back to peter one more time, he was one of the early adopters. he came to me in 2004 and said i really want to cover the 2004 conventions gavel-to-gavel, and in this dais -- day in age, you're not going to do that on the network. streaming video in 2004 was a fairly new thing for most of us, and so we started something called abc news now with the democratic convention in the summer of 2004 where peter jennings anchored gavel-to-gavel coverage of the conventions on streaming video that the internet was open to anybody possible that otherwise wouldn't be even possible. george is a terrific reporter, a
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great journalist, and he really embraced social work media and the networks aggressively. i do think that in the end, and this is really -- i've discoveredded through the process why i wrote the book. when i set out, i wanted to write the book because i saw things i wish other people could get to see. it is richer. it is harder. it is in many ways more valiant than what i appreciated great jumpism really was. as i've gone through the process, i realized there was a further related reason why i care. i don't want this to be nostalgia or left in the past and to say wasn't that great we had peter jennings? wasn't that wonderful they had great journalism back then? there are examples today of
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wonderful work being done, and i want to make sure that quality of work continues well into the social media and whatever comes after social media age that we're encountering. i mean, there's a fundamental question about whether all of these changes will make us better, more informed citizens, or whether it reduces all the great work that's being done to some lowest common denominator, and ultimately, this is one of the most important things, i think, ultimately, it's not just up to the journalists, and it's not just up to the people who run news organizations. they have an important say in what gets done in journalism today. the public also has a very important say in what gets done. i learned at abc news that even the very greatest journalists and news organizations do pay attention to what people are coming to. it's inevitable. if you care about what you report, you care about how big your audience is. if you don't, you're keeping a
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diary. you had -- you are not a journalist. if you care, you want as many people to pay attention as you can possibly get, and what that means is if everyone rushes to the latest salacious rumor or the latest celebrity scandal or something like that, there's more of that coverage. on the other hand, if people seek out the really high quality great journalism being done, there's more of that, too. you have a say. everyone in the audience has a say and a responsibility in what journalism ultimately becomes. in the end, the biggest surprise for me today in journalism is not that there are things that make me cringe. given how big the tent is, that's inevitable. it's probably healthy. there's more news than ever before. weather it is healthy, it's inevitable. that's how it's going. the biggest surprise is that there is so much great work
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being done, and in the early days at abcnews.com used to bemoan the stories. top ten stories on the site were just three or four stories we would have thought of as a substantive news story. charlie, with unlimited number of choices, it's still three or four of the top ten. they can go to any bizarre video they want, and they are still coming to very important stories which is terrific. i'd like to believe this will all continue. i'd like to believe that the time honored journalism that people like peter, ted, diana, and barbara continue into the future. i think there's reason to believe that's possible. as i say, there's a lot of great journalism done by the mainstream media as well as by new media, but ultimately, it will be up to all of us, and the thing i really want people to
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take away from this book is our joint responsibility to reward the great men and women who are working in journalism by giving them our time and attention. thank you very much for listening. [applause] >> well thank you very much, thank you very much, david westin, and author of "exit interview," and now it's time for the audience questions, the fun part, going back over things you talked about and hopefully hear more in-depth, and as you can see, we do have great a number of questions, and most of them are not repetitious. they want to -- and i thought the first one was interesting. is there a particular event that has occurred since you left abc news that you would have likedded to have led the coverage on? >> that's a great question, and i have an immediate answer.
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two or three things, but the one time i've had any inkling of regret or saying, boy, would have loved to be there for that, was when they got bin laden. that was the one time when i heard that -- and part of that was just to come full circle because i had been with that story, and abc news worked hard on reporting the bin laden story and al-qaeda story, and, yes, that's a story i would have loved to been on the cover. >> i imagine that's a con knicks that will carry on with you as you've been on the fore front of big stories. in what way does the approach to reporting on ongoing events, how have they change over time such as the different -- is there a difference in the way we're covering the iraqi war or now, i guess, the afghan war? >> well, the big change that
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happened in my teen euroin -- tenure in iraq was inbeds. that didn't happen before the 2003 war. the idea of a really big factor in news coverage, particularly television is what technology makes possible because now, you know, anyone can have a camera just anywhere any time, and you can also transmit out. going back to the iraq war, we were still in the stone age in terms of telecom communication, fat phone and things like that, whereas today, it's advanced much beyond that. you can get high quality streaming video about anywhere. that's changedded coverage a great deal. i think overall for the better. the other thing, of course, another story that would be nice to cover is the ash spring, and that the advent of social media and twitter and some of the postings on facebook and things
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like that. things we see now in syria. that presents challenges, too. we had some of this in the demonstrations in iran when i was there, how you vet that and make sure you're not manipulated when it's not your people or camera person taking the video that you can check on and you are getting it in presents challenges, but overall, it's a good thing because we have access to more information and video than ever before. >> that's a debatable question, certainly with reporters out there and know the old ways. the inability to vet, to know, to affirm that what you're delivering are the actual facts, how much does that bother you? >> well, bother me -- first of all, it's inevitable. i try not to be bothered by things that happen anyway, but it does present certain challenges and increased responsibility on the editorial process. we certainly had this, for example, back in iran when we were getting video.
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there are ways to check things to figure out, you know, is it possible that that happened, and were those people in that place, and what else do you know about this source that are not different in time from what reporters have always done. we've always had sources of some sort or another, and it's been a challenge and makes us nervous because you know no matter how well you vetted the sources, you could be wrong, somebody could be misleading you. it happened in notorious examples. i think it increases the responsibility on the editorial process, but, again, i think in general, more information is something we shouldn't resist as journalists. it's a question of what we do with it, how we process, and how we vet it. we have a responsibility to make sure it's right. >> you volunteered to take over as president of abc news. it was a step down for you according to the writer, and then you had to wait 15 months for him to retire. can you explain why you
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volunteered? [laughter] >> this is in "exit interview," and i talk about this in the beginning. step down -- in the organizational chart, it was a step down because i was head of the network, and news reported to the head of the network. it was not a step down, certainly looking back now. i don't think i felt it was at the time because abc news is and was a very special organization, and being able to run that day-to-day has a lot of challenges, but a lot of rewards attached to it so i never felt it was a step down, but it was, that's right, on the organizational chart. i took it for -- i mean, good and sufficient reasons, but not reasons you want to hear. i had not had a lifelong quest to run a major news organization. i had been a lawyer, as you said in washington, and then i had been general council of capital city, abc, the parent company, and i worked with the journalists at abc news at their
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lawyer and then the supervisor of the network, but it was not something i was questing for. it was a matter of my predecessor, who is a legend first in sports and then in news, coming towards the end of his tenure and needed a successor. i tried to do that as head of the network working with my boss who now runs the walt disney company. we tried it for several months. it was a pressing issue for us. we wanted we could make the changes we knew had to be made. i pulled a dick cheney in a sense that i tried several things, none worked, and in the end, e reluctantly said to bob, i think i could do the job, but i don't know that i want to. bob says i think you could do it, but i don't know i want you to either. [laughter] i did it more as a good corporate citizen, but someone who cared about the news and thought i would be a transitional figure, do that for
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a few years until someone else came along, and the surprise to me, the thing i did not predict is i loved it. i've been blessed with a number of really great jobs working with great people. there's nothing like running abc news. it was a fabulous job, but i didn't know it when i took the job. i got lucky. i blundered into it. >> will investigative journalism continue to play as much of a role in the field of journalism as it has in the past? >> i hope so, and i believe so. you mentioned in the introduction the investigative unit we put together at abc news when i was there, and we invested in that at a time when there was a lot of pressure on resources. we put more resources into it. partly because i believe in it. i think it's one of the -- not the only, but one of the principle responsibilities of journalism is to hold people
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accountable, to find out things that people in power whether government or otherwise, people in power would rather you not know i think is right at the core of what great journalism is, but i also think it can be justified as a business matter because if you think about it in a world where there's more and more outlets many of whom tell you different versions of the same thing, an exclusive investigative report is something you own. you can rise above the crowd and get attention, and you can draw an audience too. i saw that, also, i believed, on the internet as we went to the internet. if we had a significant investigative report, our traffic spiked immediately. it would go up. the good news is one time you can do well by doing good when it comes to investigation. i'm hopeful for investigative work, but let's be clear. it costs money.
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one of the things i do talk about in the book is the business of journalism is next to the journalism. if you don't care about the business side, you don't care about the jowrchlism. good journalism requires investment of money, and i always took that very seriously that i needed to manage the business side so we could do the journalism because i cared so much about the journalism. >> well, scattered throughout there's probably other questions that bear on the same topic. what is your view of the blatant right wing reporting of fox news? is there any objective reporting done anymore, and -- let's see here -- without completely blurring the line between news reporting and editorial. your comment? >> well, you've hit on a sore spot for me. as i said in my remarks, one of the big changes was the add vent of cable news, and particularly fox news, and somewhat later
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msnbc which changed the environment. again, just to go back and think what our mind set was and how wrong we were. when fox and msnbc, we thought why does the world need three breaking news channel? we missed the fact that what fox news was doing was something different. it was mixing prelimmics with news. it's a powerful combination and brilliant business model. msnbc is taking a chapter from their book. it's brilliant because when you are supported by advertising, then what matters is getting as big and broad of an audience as you can. anybody you lose out of your audience makes you lose money because you don't get the ratings and advertising. when you go over the cable era,
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it's supported by subscription fees and advertising. when you go to subscription fee, passion counts more than the size of the audience. you can make more money from a smaller audience that's passionate because if you have 10% or 15% of the audience that says to the cable provider, i'll turn off my cable box if you don't have that channel on, then you can command an enormous rate of the cable offer. it's a good, really smart business move. you see if in other parts of cable. it's not just news. i mean, you can see that hbo to some extent is a matter of passion, deep engage. people who care about it have to have their hbo. disney channel has deep engagement, and it's successful. when you go over into news, what engagement has turned into -- i don't know that it has to, but it has is partisanship.
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you have right and you have left. that in itself is not evil. there's opinions and editorial pages, but what identified the problem is the blurring of the line mixes the front page with the op-ed page. that's dangerous. journalists owe people more than that. now i'm telling you this because i believe it to be true opposed to i'm telling you this because i want it to be true or worse i'm telling you this because i figured out what you want, and i'm going to give you that. that's a danger. mainly for society. i think our public is weaker. we're not going to solve problems picking up sides and making up our own facts. it's that quote that everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not their own fact. [laughter] [applause] >> what, if anything, can be done about it? in fact, the question is here can you name five tv news
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anchors who do not violate that line? >> oh, well, what i can do is name five television news anchors who care about the line and who struggle mightily not to violate it. the fact is we're all biased. everybody's biased. in the book i talk about this. i come from michigan. i went to the university of michigan. if i covered a michigan football game against ohio state, i would be biased. i might struggle hard not to be biased, but i would have a tough time doing that. the question is not whether we're biased. the question is do we fight against it or give into it? i think there's a big difference between the two because the fact that everyone's biased doesn't mean you can't struggle to be less biased opposed to just embracing it saying that's fine. i'm biased. i'll go with it. absolutely, george stefenopolis works hard not to be biased. jake tapper, but brian williams
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understands this. dianne sawyer understands this. you can think they succeed or fail, but it's valuable they try. what i really want people to realize it not all news is created equal. there is a difference. there is a difference. i saw it in my experience with the struggle behind the scenes to try to do the right thing. >> how much do you think the absence of a strong federal role the fcc and regulatory and i don't mean in the telling you what to say and what to do, but just with various regulations, sort of keeps things organized, with the disappearance that of t hand that was there for so many years. >> well, it's changed, the nature of broadcasting. the fcc and federal government never regulated cable the way they did broadcasting. on the theory back to the 50s and before that with the radio agent that they are public air waves.
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you're holding something in public trust and you have obligations. my understanding of history is that in the early days of television, the bills in the world, and the generals, essentially, not explicitly, but effectively made a deal with the government, and they said if you let us run "i love lucy," then we'll build a really good news organization. i personally think it's a mistake to think there were wonderful people who decided out of the goodness of their heart would invest a lot in news. i don't know that that happened. it was a good solid business decision made, but informed by the federal regulation that you talk about. with deregulation, that went away. the rationale for news had to shift. it came also, frankly, at a time when broadcasting was expanding
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dramatically. "60 minutes" came on to the scene and went to prime time. they did a great job and make a lot of money from it. again, it's a mixed decision. news had to start justifying itself by returning to shareholders as well as reflecting well on the company and being good for the brand. that's the reality we have today, but i do think that the change in federal relation, and, in fact, you can argue whether that's good or bad because, in fact, the federal regulation did get into, i think, some substantive speech regulations and issues. there were issues about that, but the fact is it's different. there's no question about it. >> uh-huh. thinking of elections and the old equal time rules -- >> yeah, exactly. fairness doctrine, equal time. >> are those missing elements? is the business better and journalism better with them gone? >> you know, i think those were valuable things, although,
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broadcasters certainly resisted at the time. they were valuable things in a time when you had three networks. this has exploded so much now. you can find anything. that's why part of the point is we all have to be our own editors now. you know, used to be the fact there were a few trusted editors nationally whether it was print or broadcast. that's not true anymore. everything's out there. all of us, as citizens, have a responsibility to be more discerning, to be more thoughtful about what we are watching. one of my pet peeves are people who complain about the latest celebrity scandal and all the coverage of it and recite to me every single detail about it. it's clear they are spending a lot of time paying attention to it, and i want to say, well, just don't watch it, you know. if you don't watch it, they don't do it as much of it. we all bear a certain responsibility. >> well, from your experience in the 2000 election and the national election since, how is the nature of political
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coverage, in particular, changing due to innovations such as the internet and social media and we can expand on that and your thoughts about both of those things. >> well, there are two, at least two, i think, fundamental changes. the news cycle has turnedded from 24 hours into nanoseconds. the time to respond and react and thing, i mean, it's constant. you can think that that's a good thing because we have more news, but, also, things get misreported or just spurious reports get out there, and they go around and picked up by mainstream media before they get denied which is a real problem. it's a real danger because people form impressions. they hear something, sticks in the back of the mind, and think it's true although it's been totally disproved. that's one issue. the other issue, and this is on a continuum i saw, because in
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the early days of my tenure, we already had presidential candidates, for example, moving away to some extent from news outlets and starting to do late night talk shows and daytime talk shows and mtv and things like that. you didn't have to go to the peter jennings or the barbara walters for interviews. you could go anywhere. that now exploded in social media so that the political candidates go directly to the people. it's all done on twitter and facebook and all immediate. the role is a more challenging one, i think, for some of the mainstream news org'ses. they -- organizations. they have to be the curators of that, go after it, correct mistakes, and really put it in context after the fact. they are not gatekeepers anymore. people vet often after the fact and cover what's been said and that it's wrong.
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>> well, i want to remind the audience you're listening to the commonwealth club of california's radio program, and our guest is david westin, former president of abc news, discussing the inner workings of the journalism broadcast system. we'll continue with audience questions. you sparked -- this is a card that says a person sitting here in the room with you that said i was in paris, france, when 9/11 occurred. we watched british media because american reporting was so far behind with information. why? >> first time i've heard that. i was in new york. i didn't see the other. well, certainly was not intentional. we were not holding anything back. it's interesting. my perspective is different on that having been in the control room with peter on the floor and
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things. the challenge was we got information in so quickly we couldn't vet, and what really happenedded -- one of the things just having been in the news room, the feeling was to cast our minds back there, it was so unthinkable what happened. the first planes flown into the towers, and a plane then into the pentagon. if recall when the first tower came down, peter jennings on the air couldn't believe it at first. he kept correcting the reporter on the scene. he said, you mean, a piece of the building fell? no, no, the building fell. peter literally couldn't believe it. we couldn't believe it. it was unimaginable. on top of that, we know now looking back pretty much what happened. two towers came down, attack on the pentagon, the plane in pennsylvania, but at the time, reports that there were other planes, and there were also other buildings under attack, and there were bizarre reports that normally in another world, you would have just dismissed,
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but given what happened, you couldn't rule anything out. we were frantically trying to vet these things, and at the time, and i do not blame the government for this. we were not getting anything out of the government. the federal government shut down. vice president cheney had gone to a secure location in a bunker. president bush was on air force one, and, again, they were doing that because they were worried about the security of the country, but it left us by ourselves out there trying to figure out, trying to vet these things and figure out what was going on to report as best we can. i'm not sure what information was reported first in england and france. that's the first i heard it. one thing i promise you is we were not holding back anything because we thought we should. by the way, not on 9/11 itself, but in the two or three or four days after that, there were requests from the white house to hold back on certain reporting. they thought it was, i'm sure in good faith necessary for
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national security we pushed back on saying that's not a good idea. if the nation ever had the sense that the government was agreeing with the media to hold things back, then the media's not going to be able to trust anybody. we're not going to be able to do that. >> i want you to read the book, but that's an exciting chapter and condoleezza rice's role on that. you seem emotionally involved in the debate about what you should do, and it was putting your patriotism against your news judgment, i guess, be the way, and you had something in the book that you talk about whether to wear lapel pins or not. >> yeah, that is in the 9/11 chapter. it was a couple of days after 9/11 itself, while, again, still on the air nonstop, and i was in the control room at the time, and i had our head of communications come up to me and dealt with the press and things, who said we're getting press calls asking why you're people
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on the air are not wearing american flags on the lapels because the cable people went to wearing buttons. they put flags in the backdrops and the bumpers and pro moes, just all over the place, and i thought about it for a minute. we had a policy at abc news long before i was there that no one wore any lapel pins on the air, and the rationale was when you report the news, you should be reporting the news because you believe it to be true, no perceived allegiance to any particular cause or organization. at the time, and this is true to this day, all of the members of the administration always had lapel pins on. always whenever they appeared had pins on. what i thought was two things. one is if we start wearing lapel pins, will people think they are identified with the administration and they tell me
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things because that's the administration's point of view, and that occurred to me, it's a time we felt intensely patriotic because we had all been attacked, and we had thousands of our innocent fellow civilians killed, but, i thought, you know, sooner or later there's going to be a parting of ways here. we're going to have to report on the administration in a way that distances ourselfings. i don't want people to be confused. why are they wearing pins? the other thing, perfectly honest, it flashed through my mind because these things come up when you don't have time to think about it. you have to respond. i thought, well, we do have our principle anchor who is canadian, and what's going to happen when i go to peter and say, peter, you have to where an american lapel pin. he did become an american, but at the time, he was not. if we have to differentiate whether to wear or pin or not,
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and i said, no, we're sticking with the policy. it was controversial. i came under personal criticism for the position. by the way, i respect people on the other side of it. i would make the same decision today. i think it was the right decision. >> you were, at least in my reading of stories about other people in your position, you were an activist. there in the control room, there as many hours as the people working for you. talk a little bit about that part of your management style. >> well, i -- i don't think of myself as a micromanager, but at the same time, particularly when it's breaking news, you have to be there. you have to be in the process. for several reasons -- one is that you don't want to expose your people all by themselves. you have to be in a position to back them up saying we talk about this, i agree with the decision, and that's to the
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outside world, to the corporation, to any number of people, and if you're not involved in the process in making the decision and in a position to back them up, you're not doing your job correctly. also, a news organization like that, particularly in breaking news, you can go wrong. it's very exciting. let me make this clear. being in a live control room with breaking news is very exciting. i don't want to act like it's some big burden. part. excitement is you can -- part of the excitement is you can go wrong in an instability. you can -- you are called upon in an instant to go with a story or not. if you get it wrong, it can be bad. if you have peter jennings, so great at breaking news, a fabulous journalist, really great, but he's on the air. you can't take a timeout, five minutes off to the side and have a conversation about this.
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i would be having -- go on the set, talk to peter off to the side saying this is what i'm doing. how do you react to that? you had to be there to participate in the process. you couldn't do that from a remote distance. it's not fair to peter or the producer in the controlroom or anything else saying make your call, and if it's wrong, then it's on your head. i mean, i had to be in a position to say i was there, and i decided that. >> you write about close calls and some that you thought over, wondered whether you made the right decisions. >> some i got wrong. >> yeah. mind sharing one short story? >> the 2000 election. we got that election wrong twice in one night. we projected it for vice president gore, relatively early in the evening in florida, and then we had to pull it down after a couple of hours, and at 2:30 in the morning, we projected it for then governor bush, and then had to pull it down after of couple of hours. in retrospect, it was a tie
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election. you couldn't project anything that night. you know, the margin of error was greater than the margin of the difference of the votes, and i particularly regretted it because we were last. i mean, on the second call at 2:30 in the morning, all the other networks, cable and broadcast, all projected it for bush, and we could have just held back, and i was in the control room, and they asked do you want to overrule? our decision desk said, yes, it's okay. we went through with it. i could have been not a hero, but in a better position than i was testifying before congress about how we could have gotten something that important, that wrong twice in one night. >> you've encouraged people several times tonight, you know, to watch, rook, and listen, but with the new rules and with the abundance of commercial messages, is there a chance they
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could overshadow the news version of event by running just volumes of the one sided? that's what they are supposed to be. they are paying for it, you know, messages. >> certainly looks like they are trying to overcome the news organizations, and money in politics is a bigger topic than what we were concerned about and what i was concerned about. we covered partisan politics right and left, but not as much time as we should have on following the money. it can explain what's going on, but all i can say is it's up to the news organizations to do their best, to counteract that when there's things said that are wrong in political commercials, advertisements, to call it out, report it, shine a light on it, and ultimately, this has been true for the entire history of the country. we have to trust the people. we have to trust the people ultimately in the long term to
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be discerning, smart enough, and skeptical enough the way peter was skeptical to discern the truth and make the best decisions. >> yeah. i was wondering if we crossed some lines, the formula we once knew, does not -- cannot be as reliably counted on by good news organizations? so much social media, so much twitter, so many commercials, so many ways to receive both good and bad information. >> yeah, i don't know the answer to the question, of course. i will say there's a number of times in the history of the country people thought it was all going south, and some of the countries always comes back and is resill yes , ma'am. the system, and the first amendment at the core of that, worked awfully well for the country for a long time, and so i don't know the answer, but i wouldn't bet against the system even with the stresses and
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strains of everything from social media to the packs that have so many millions of dollars to invest in negative advertisements. >> right. at what point in your i'm at abc news did you find your background in law was more appropriate than the field of journalism in addressing the challenges facing news today? >> well, there were, of course, legal issues that came up that i knew something about and was pretty comfortable with, and that's everything from the ken starr investigation, the grand jury investigation, to the bush versus gore decision of the supreme court. if you recall, went up to the supreme court once, came back down, and went up a second time. i could speak with confidence about in general the way the supreme court worked. not with confidence how they came out, but how they worked in general. that was helpful, but the more broader point i felt from my time was that journalism and law, i think, intersect in one very important way or
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journalists and lawyers do. the hallmark of a really good lawyer is knowing what questions to ask. it's not having the answers. it's knowing what questions to ask. my best journalists were the ones who knew what questions to ask, how many questions to ask, and who to trust and who not to trust. that intersects with my experience of what a really good lawyer does. >> well, what type of discussion would you have today with your team in deciding how to cover critical issues today where it's so quick to get information into their hands that may not be -- have you thought it through? could you do it any different from what you've always done? >> you know, i think basically it's the same in this respect. the question is how much of the truth can you learn about something that matters? that's what the core question is. that's true whether it's happening quickly or slowly, and you have to resist the temptation to go quickly in
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order to do that, and the second thing is always be willing to correct yourself. i think zimbs journalists are too reluctant to go back and say, you know what, i reported that because i i believed it true, but it's not what i thought it was now. i think the basic quest for truth is the same whether it's social media or whether it's more traditional media. >> well, unfortunately, we reached the point of the program where there's time for just one more question so could you explain your new role at news right? how will it interact with the huffington post? >>the -- what we're doing is representing a number of newspapers in the associated press in developing of business models to sustain original journalism in the digital age. that's the mission, and the basic idea is there's hiewfnlg growth actually in -- huge growth actually in news, but most is internet and mobile. much of the information consumed ultimately comes from
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newspapers, but it's on third party sites who take information from newspapers. the question is can we develop reasonable licensing ways so that we can still afford the reporters that i think we all need in this country. >> all right. well, our thanks to you, david westin, former president of abc news, and author of the new book, "exit interview," and we also thank our audience here and on the radio, television, and the internet. >> and here at book expo america, the book publish industry's annual convention in new york city, we are joined by drake mcfeely, chairman of ww
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norton and company. we wanted to ask you about the books coming out this fall, 2012. starting with this one behind us. >> absolutely. this is a very scary book about a very important subject. this is what happens, humans are moving deeper and deeper into the hinterlands, and as so, we are getting animal diseases transported over to the human population. it's not just aids and sars anymore, but other kinds of diseases you have not heard of. david's been out studying around the world, bats, monkeys, gorillas. he's a wonderful writer. i don't know if you know his books that do well. this is going to be an exciting book for us this fall. >> also happening in the u.s. or other nations mainly? >> this is a worldwide phenomena, obviously, but with the transit of people around the world now, diseases move quickly. >> also wanted to ask you about
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the -- "the last refiewj" coming out by gregory johnson. >> sure. if you want to understand terrorism, you have to understand yemen. if you want to understand yemen, johnson is a terrific guide. lived there for a long time, on the ground, speaks the language. he has trained our ambassadors going over to yemen. this is a poor country that has, as most people know, is a very big source for al-qaeda and for terrorism. it's the country you want to know about. >> david coleman. >> he's done a book called "the 14th day," and we're publishing that in october 2012. it's going to be an anniversary -- 50th anniversary for the cuban missile crisis. they know the book "the 13th day" and the movie, and david's question is how about the 14th day?
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the day of the cuban missile crisis. this is a book filled from the presidential tapes project at the university of virginia's miller center, transcripts from the kennedy white house about how kennedy managed the outcome making sure the missiles were removed from cuba to managing congress and the results of the crisis. >> what's mr. coleman's background? >> he's at the university of virginia, both history department and at the miller center. >> how long have you been with norton, and how long have you been chairman and president? >> okay. 36 years in norton. i started norton right out of college, been running the place for the last 18 years, and chairman since 2000. >> when it comes to e-books and real books, what is the break down revenue-wise and so on? >> so on our trade sales in the last year, which we just finished up, tracked 21% e-books
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we are industry average. some genera publishers see much higher figures in terms of percentage, and certainly, when we look at fiction sales on an individual title, on one occasion we saw over 50% e-book sales to p-book sales. >> you predict e-books will take 50% and more? >> i think we're going to play tow, and it could be at the 50% range. i think the interesting thing to me is that we will plateau. i'm not looking ahead to the death of the printing book, but ahead to a world where a lot of people enjoy reading their books on e-book readers, and others prefer ink on paper. we're ready for both of them. >> what is a another trend in publishing we should be looking for in the next couple of years? >> oh, that's interesting. i would say, you know, we're -- i watch the growth of the huge companies, but i watch
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independent publishing houses. i look the fact there's more access to the market place these days. that will be a healthy thing, not just for norton, but for smaller independents that are growing. >> who was ww norton? >> founded the firm in, he was informs export and import business. he and his wife, deeply involved in the founding of the firm, had a passion for books. it began as advocation. he was still in the export business by day, but starting to publish books by night. three years later, he was doing it full-time, and the rest is history. >> well, you've just revived a 1920s print, haven't you, at nor ton? >> we have. it's an initiative with the live right publishing corporation. we have owned that imprint since the early 1970s. they are the publishers of

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CSPAN September 3, 2012 12:45pm-2:00pm EDT

David Westin Education. (2012) 'Exit Interview.'

TOPIC FREQUENCY Peter Jennings 11, Abc News 10, Barbara 7, Diana 6, David Westin 5, Barbara Walters 5, Michigan 4, Windsor 4, Msnbc 3, Washington 3, Diane Sawyer 3, Hbo 2, Understand Yemen 2, Pentagon 2, Virginia 2, Norton 2, Iran 2, England 2, California 2, Paris 2
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